Legislative Bulletin — Friday, September 10, 2021

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
GOVERNMENT REPORTS
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

H.R. 5159

Afghanistan Transparency Act

The bill would direct the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, to submit to the appropriate congressional committees an annual report on the situation in Afghanistan. Such report would address, among many other topics, contingency plans related to the continued evacuation of Afghans who hold special immigrant visa (SIV) status.

Sponsored by Representative Jason Crow (D-Colorado) (3 Cosponsors– 2 Democrats, 1 Republican)

09/03/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Crow

09/03/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Armed Services

H.R. 5168

Welcoming Evacuees Coming from Overseas to Mitigate Effects of Displacement (WELCOMED) Act of 2021

The bill would provide Afghan evacuees — including parolees — with the same benefits provided to refugees upon their arrival in the U.S. It would make them eligible for reception and placement services that would equip them with the basic money and resources to resettle themselves and their families into the United States.

Sponsored by Representative Seth Moulton (D-Massachusetts) (37 Cosponsors– 34 Democrats, 3 Republicans)

09/03/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Moulton

09/03/2021 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

H.R. 5174

To establish the National Commission on United States Involvement in Afghanistan

Sponsored by Representative Elise Stefanik (R-New York) (1 Cosponsor– 1 Republican, 0 Democrats)

09/03/2021 Introduced in the House by Representative Stefanik

09/03/2021 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session from Monday, September 13, through Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives will not hold votes, but it will be in session for committee work from Monday, September 13, through Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

House Judiciary Committee Markup: Legislative proposals to comply with the reconciliation directive included in section 2002 of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (S. Con. Res. 14)

Date:  Monday, September 13, 2021, 10:00 am (House Committee on the Judiciary)

Location: Congressional Auditorium (CVC-200)

Hearing to Examine the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Date:  Tuesday, September 14, 2021, at 10:00 am E.T. (Senate Committee on Foreign Relations)

Location: 106/VTC Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Witnesses: The Honorable Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Federal

Congressional Democrats Continue Reconciliation Process, Immigration Reforms Face Parliamentarian

The week of September 6, shortly after passing a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, House committees began hammering out the details and legislative text of the omnibus spending bill according to allocations provided in the budget resolution. House Democrats have agreed to a non-binding deadline of September 15 for committees to draft and mark up the legislative text. Democrats, however, must be careful when writing the legislative text, as according to the rules of the reconciliation process, all provisions must be budget-related. A determination of whether planned immigration reforms can be included will fall on the Senate parliamentarian, who is the chamber’s nonpartisan rules referee.

In that regard, on September 10, Democrats and Republicans met with the Senate parliamentarian to hear dueling arguments over whether Democrats can include provisions for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, undocumented farmworkers, and other essential workers. A final decision from the parliamentarian is not expected imminently, but the arguments come as the Senate prepares to return from recess next week.

If the parliamentarian green lights the provisions, House Democrats will aim to pass the entire bill on party lines by September 27. That is the deadline that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set for the House to turn to a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate passed in August. The deadline came as a compromise with nine moderate Democrats, who argued that the House should have first considered the bipartisan infrastructure bill before dealing with the more partisan reconciliation effort.

Once the House approves the spending bill, it will go back to the consideration of the Senate, where Democrats are hoping to continue the reconciliation process and pass the omnibus package into law. Reconciliation is a process that allows the Senate to move the bill forward with a simple majority and bypass a potential Republican filibuster. Prospects for Senate passage are becoming more complicated for Democrats, as Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) recently came forward to say that he would not support a $3.5 trillion spending package. According to an Axios report, Manchin is open to supporting at most $1.5 trillion of the spending bill. That scenario would require Democrats to make concessions on at least part of the ambitious spending package.

As initially passed by the Senate and the House, the budget resolution allocates $107 billion to the Judiciary Committee, which Democrats are hoping to use to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, undocumented farmworkers, and other essential workers. Democrats are also planning to allocate approximately $10 billion for smart and effective border security measures focused on infrastructure at legal entry points.

Biden Administration Asks Congress for Additional Funding for Afghan Resettlement

On September 7, the Biden Administration requested Congress to appropriate $6.4 billion in additional funding to support the ongoing efforts to resettle close to 100,000 Afghans forced to flee their country in the past weeks. A majority of this funding would go to support ongoing resettlement operations — both in third country sites and within the U.S. — with the goal of bringing tens of thousands of Afghans to the U.S. before the end of the year through Operation Allies Welcome. The requested funding would be spread out among agencies within the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for humanitarian assistance, health checks, and resettlement.

The request also includes several provisions ensuring the effective resettlement of at-risk Afghans who are arriving under a process called humanitarian parole. Parolees are ineligible for many benefits provided to refugees and do not have a clear path to permanent status. As other pathways to protection such as Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) status and refugee status are backlogged, as many as 70,000 Afghans may be paroled into the U.S. The Biden administration funding request would authorize parolees to receive the same federal benefits as refugees and would allow them to adjust to permanent status within one year.

This call for additional funding comes in addition to grassroots momentum that has sprung up in past weeks — cutting across political and ideological divides — to help recently arrived Afghans. Massive influxes in donations ranging from clothes to household supplies have arrived at refugee agencies and nonprofits around the country.

Third Whistleblower Complaint Documents Abuses of Unaccompanied Migrant Children at Texas Emergency Facility

On September 8, the Government Accountability Project filed its third whistleblower complaint concerning abuses against unaccompanied minors at the Fort Bliss Emergency Intake Site (EIS) in Texas. Similar to the previous two, the third whistleblower complaint documents gross mismanagement and details multiple violations of health, safety, and child welfare laws, regulations, and policies. The listed violations include threatening children with deportation, delaying children’s request to see the mental health team, providing them with “skin lightening” lotion (in lieu of moisturizer) which can cause burnt and blistered skin, leaving lights on in tents for 24 hours, and denying permission to use the bathroom during the day. The newest complaint also highlights that the children regularly “appear to be lost” in the system without contact from a case worker.

review into the conditions of Fort Bliss was already announced on August 2 following two other whistleblower complaints from July 7 and July 28. Fort Bliss is run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an office within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The migrant minors at this facility were put under the care and management of Servpro, a contractor for the HHS. Advocates have noted that Servpro and other companies contracted by HHS have no prior record of childcare or with work that requires Spanish language skills.

In addition to concerns within HHS custody, data recently released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has exposed concerns regarding children who have been released by HHS to sponsors. According to the data, the federal government has lost contact with one-in-three migrant children released from its custody. HHS is required to conduct follow-up calls thirty days after each release to ensure children are properly cared for, but between January and May, the agency found that more than 4,000 minors were unreachable. According to an August 19 Bloomberg report, the U.S. government is already investigating the potential release of dozens of migrant children by HHS into the hands of labor traffickers.

VP Harris Meets with Mexican Officials to Discuss Root Causes of Migration

On September 9, a U.S. delegation led by Vice President Kamala Harris hosted the annual US-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue with their Mexican counterparts. During the meeting, participants discussed the economic and social priorities to foster regional prosperity and tackle the root causes of migration from Central America. Among the commitments of the meeting, both delegations agreed to deepen the collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Mexican counterpart, the Mexican Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AMEXCID) to address the development challenges of the Northern Triangle, including building new value chains and helping bring agricultural goods to market, as well as attracting further investment.

The meeting took place amid atypical migration from Central American moving through Mexico to the U.S.-Mexico border. The high migration levels have pressured Mexican President López Obrador to renew his effort to persuade the United States to commit funding to social projects he has implemented in southern Mexico that he says could be expanded to Central America. He said he sent a letter this week to President Biden stressing that people participating in the programs should also be offered work visas in the United States, arguing that Biden will need the labor force to carry out his ambitious infrastructure plan.

Legal

Biden Administration Announces a 15-Month Automatic Extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Several Countries

On September 10, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a fifteen-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 320,000 individuals from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan until December 31, 2022. Protections for each of those countries were set to expire on October 4, 2021.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is granted to eligible foreign-born individuals living in the US who are unable to return home safely due to violence or other circumstances in their home country. The new extension – which does not require any additional payment or re-registration – comes as a result of the preliminary injunction orders from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Ramos v. Nielsen and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Saget v. Trump.

Biden Administration Appeals DACA Ruling

On September 10, the Department of Justice appealed a U.S. District Judge ruling that declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program illegal. DACA is a policy that protects over 699,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children to stay in the country.

The appeal was filed before the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case that could eventually reach the Supreme Court. In a 2015 ruling on a different, Obama administration deferred action program that would have protected the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (DAPA), the Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Judge’s decision to vacate the memorandum which had created the program. In that case, the Supreme Court split along ideological lines, with four conservative justices ruling against DAPA and four liberal justices arguing in favor. Two conservative justices have joined the Court since then.

Parallel to the appeal, the Biden Administration has noted that the Department of Homeland Security is in the process of issuing a proposed rule to preserve DACA in compliance with Judge Hanen’s ruling. President Biden, however, has expressed that regardless of the Administration’s efforts, “only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve.”

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Congressional Research Service (CRS): Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview, September 1, 2021

This CRS report provides an overview of unaccompanied migrant children (UAC) apprehension levels, examines current policy on the treatment, care, and custody of UACs, and describes the responsibilities of each federal agency involved in the apprehension and custody of UACs. The report also reviews administrative and congressional attempts from fiscal year (FY) 2015 to the present to address the increase in UACs coming to the United States.

Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General (OIG): ICE’s Management of COVID-19 in Its Detention Facilities Provides Lessons Learned for Future Pandemic Responses, September 7, 2021

This report analyzes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) policies and practices related to Covid-19 management and prevention in its detention facilities. The DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that even though ICE took some measures to prevent the pandemic’s spread in its facilities, the agency struggled to properly manage the health and safety of detainees. DHS OIG found that staff and detainees did not consistently wear face masks or socially distance. The report also highlights that testing of both detainees and staff was insufficient, and that some facilities did not consistently manage medical sick calls.

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Fact Sheet: Pathways to Protection for Afghans at Risk

This resource provides a comparison between the SIV status, the P2 refugee program, and Humanitarian Parole. It also summarizes the eligibility requirements for each pathway and notes the different application timelines and vetting procedures. The fact sheet also describes what we know about the numbers resettled so far under each pathway and what benefits they receive.

Explainer: Humanitarian Parole and the Afghan Evacuation

This resource explains what parole is, describes the eligibility requirements and vetting procedures currently in place for Afghan parolees, and discusses what benefits parolees receive when they arrive in the US The explainer also discusses the options available for those at risk who have been left behind in Afghanistan, as humanitarian parole can also be accessed by those who are able to escape on their own to third countries.

Explainer: What’s Happening at the U.S.-Mexico Border

This regularly updated explainer breaks down what is happening at the US-Mexico border, analyzing CBP data on recent apprehensions, describing the impact and use of Title 42 expulsions as well as the treatment of arriving UACs, and providing additional context on reports of increased migration to the US and releases of migrant families into the interior. The explainer also includes a Facebook live discussion covering recent developments at the border.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Arturo Castellanos-Canales, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Arturo can be reached at acastellanos@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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